Sri Lankan president holds talks with top Indian delegation

June 21st, 2008 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, June 21 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa held talks with a visiting high-level Indian delegation led by National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan Saturday morning, official sources said. “The meeting between the delegates and President Rajapaksa commenced at around 10.45 a.m. at Temple Trees,” a top diplomatic official told IANS.

Accompanying Narayanan at the meeting with Rajapaksa were Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh. The three officials between them virtually determine India’s policy vis-a-vis Sri Lanka.

“During the discussion they will exchange views on matter of mutual interest and issues related to the upcoming Saarc summit,” said the source, referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit that opens here Aug 1.

The diplomat gave no further details on the meeting.

If there was intense speculation in political and media circles about the nature of the previously unannounced Indian mission, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was also closely monitoring the visit as was evident from a report on the pro-LTTE website hours after the Indian team landed in Colombo Friday.

An official attached to the Presidential Secretariat played down the visit saying that the “visit is part of the ongoing consultation between Sri Lanka and India on the current developments”, in an obvious reference to the conflict raging in Sri Lanka.

The official pointed out that a Sri Lankan delegation comprising Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the president’s secretary Lalith Weeratunga and presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa went to New Delhi in late 2007.

Commenting on the Indian visit, retired Sri Lankan diplomat K. Nanda Godage said the “very composition of the Indian delegation itself shows the visit is something special and not just a routine one”.

“I don’t think it is just a return visit or courtesy visit. It certainly cannot be anything to do merely with the security arrangement for the Saarc summit either,” he said.

“We hope this is a visit to convey a positive message from India that it is fully behind Sri Lanka in its effort to solve the ethnic conflict,” said Godage, who had served in New Delhi as the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the late 1980s.

It is not immediately known whether the visiting Indian delegation is meeting leaders of other parties, including the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) leader and former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The delegation is expected to return to India later Saturday.

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